Unmaking the bomb: Verifying limits on the stockpiles of nuclear weapons

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Verifying limits on the stockpiles of nuclear weapons may require the ability for international in-spectors to account for individual warheads, even when non-deployed, and to confirm the authenticity of nuclear warheads prior to dismantlement. These are fundamentally new challenges for nuclear verification, and they have been known for some time; unfortunately, due to a lack of sense of urgency, research in this area has not made substantial progress over the past 20 years. This chapter explores the central outstanding issues and offers a number of possible paths forward. In the case of confirming numerical limits, these in-clude innovative tagging techniques and approaches solely based on declarations using modern crypto-graphic escrow schemes; with regard to warhead confirmation, there has recently been increasing interest in developing fundamentally new measurement approaches where, in one form or another, sensitive infor-mation is not acquired in the first place. Overall, new international R&D efforts could more usefully focus on non-intrusive technologies and approaches, which may show more promise for early demonstration and adoption. In the meantime, while warhead dismantlements remain unverified, nuclear weapon states ought to begin to document warhead assembly, refurbishment, and dismantlement activities and movements of warheads and warhead components through the weapons complex in ways that international inspectors will find credible at a later time. Again, such a process could be enabled by modern cryptographic techniques such as blockchaining. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is important to recognize that the main reason for the complexity of technologies and approaches needed for nuclear disarmament verification is the requirement to protect information that nuclear weapon states consider sensitive. Ultimately, if information security concerns cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all stakeholders, an alternative would be to "reveal the secret" and to make available select warhead design information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNuclear Weapons and Related Security Issues
EditorsPierce Corden, Allison Macfarlane, Tony Fainberg, David Hafemeister
PublisherAmerican Institute of Physics Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9780735415867
StatePublished - Nov 15 2017
Event5th Nuclear Weapons and Related Security Issues - Washington, United States
Duration: Apr 21 2017Apr 22 2017

Publication series

NameAIP Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)0094-243X
ISSN (Electronic)1551-7616


Conference5th Nuclear Weapons and Related Security Issues
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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